19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20 After He said this, He showed them His hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
24 Now Thomas (called Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it.”
26 A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
30 Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.
The apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Easter Sunday is the most significant of all Christian days. It is the day of days for Christians. There is no more important day on the Christian calendar than today, because the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundation and the cornerstone of our faith. Everything we believe, everything we put our faith in, hinges on the fact that Jesus rose from the grave on the third day. “If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that He said. If He didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what He said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like His teaching but whether or not He rose from the dead.” (Timothy Keller)
The resurrection of Jesus Christ is our proof that salvation from sin is possible, and it is our firm hope of victory over death. It is the guarantee of the final triumph of God’s kingdom on earth.
Without the hope of eternal life, all we would have left in this life would be depression and despair, because there would be no basis for hope for a better world.
There’s an old poem about the truth of Easter called “If Easter Be Not True.”
If Easter be not true, then all the lilies low must lie.
The Flanders poppies fade and die; the spring must lose her fairest bloom, For Christ were still within the tomb, If Easter be not true.
If Easter be not true, then faith must mount on broken wing; then hope no more immortal spring; then love must lose her mighty urge; love prove a phantom, death a dirge, If Easter be not true.
If Easter be not true, ’twere foolishness the cross to bear; He died in vain who suffered there; what matter though we laugh or cry, be good or evil, live or die, If Easter be not true?
If Easter be not true - but it is true, and Christ is risen! And mortal spirit from its prison of sin and death with Him may rise! Worthwhile the struggle, sure the prize, since Easter, aye, is true!
But why is the resurrection of Jesus so significant? In order for us to try and understand this we need to look at it in three parts: The significance for Jesus Himself, for His disciples, and then for us today.
Firstly, the resurrection of Christ was a divine declaration concerning His unique sonship. Paul writes in the opening verses of the book of Romans, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God - the gospel He promised beforehand through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding His Son, who as to His human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Many times Jesus assumed and claimed a unique relationship with God. He claimed to be the Son of God. He refused to deny that He was the Son of God when others declared that He was. And the resurrection was the clincher. It was the resurrection that provided the convincing evidence that proved that He was indeed who He claimed to be. It lifted him to a position of unquestioned lordship in the eyes of His disciples. Peter preached a powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost, which resulted in some three thousand people accepting Jesus as their saviour. Peter ended his sermon with these words: “Let all Israel be assured of this: God made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
The resurrection of Jesus also revealed Him to be our eternal Judge. Acts 17:31 says, “God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the man He has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
The resurrection of Jesus confirmed and sealed the truth that He is an all-sufficient Saviour. Hebrews 7:24-25 says, “Because Jesus lives forever, He has a permanent priesthood. Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.”
Had He not risen from the grave and conquered death, Jesus would be just another prophet and one of many good teachers. But His resurrection is what makes Him unique. He came to save us from all past sin, He came to save us from the power of sin in the present, and He lives in order to save us from the presence of sin in the future.
Secondly, the significance of the resurrection for Jesus’ disciples. The resurrection of Jesus brought about a remarkable transforming effect in their lives. They ran away in fright and despair when He was arrested, condemned, and crucified. Then they were shocked and surprised to learn that He had risen from the dead. Thomas wasn’t the only one who didn’t believe immediately. Only after many proofs had been provided were they able to accept the reality of His resurrection.
The disciples also eventually came to understand Jesus’ death in terms of an expression of God’s great love for sinners. Initially they regarded it only an indescribable tragedy. After all the hype and anticipation on Palm Sunday only five days previously, they regarded His death as a political disappointment, and as the greatest sorrow of their lifetime. But because Jesus met with them again and again and explained portions of the Old Testament that they had overlooked, they came to understand that in His death He was dealing with the penalty of their sin. Now it all made sense to them.
Now they understood that everything Jesus had ever done and said were all part of God’s master plan of securing the salvation of lost sinners. By His resurrection, Jesus gave His disciples the assurance that He would always be with them by His Spirit. When we can’t be with someone we often say that we’ll be with them in spirit. What does that mean? Those are just words. It’s a nice thought, yes, but it’s impossible for us to be with someone in spirit. But this doesn’t apply to Jesus. At the end of Matthew’s Gospel is what we know as the Great Commission, and here Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Those are not mere words. It is a promise from Jesus to His disciples that He would continue to bless them with His abiding presence and to go with them as they carried out His command to spread the good news. As they shared their understanding of what God had done on the cross and in the empty tomb, they learned that He was always with them and that His power worked in and through them. They came to understand that death had been defeated and that immortality was a reality. For them death had been the enemy, and the end of human hope and love. Death was the grim reaper that conquered the great, the strong, the wise, and the wealthy as well as the holy and the good. It was and remains for so many today a grim reality that strikes fear into human hearts. Death remains the greatest human fear. But by His resurrection from the dead, Jesus has shown that death was a defeated enemy. All of these things transformed those early disciples as they spread the wonderful news that Jesus was alive.
And thirdly, what significance does the resurrection hold for us today?
By raising Jesus Christ from the dead, God speaks to us today and reassures us that people need not be alienated and estranged from Himself. By His death, Jesus suffered the penalty of the sin that separates us from God. And through faith in what He did on the cross and in the tomb, we can now receive forgiveness for our sin and the gift of eternal life. He speaks to us today about His desire for fellowship and friendship with us. Before sin entered the world, Adam and Eve enjoyed fellowship and companionship with God. Sin ended that, but the resurrection of Jesus has restored that lost relationship with God.
Jesus came and lived and died as a substitute for the penalty of our sin, which is death. He conquered death and the grave in order to reveal to us that God’s plan for us is life and not death. God’s desire for us is fellowship and friendship, not alienation and estrangement. By raising Christ from the dead, God demonstrated the ultimate victory of good over evil. Humans may crucify goodness on Friday, but God will raise up goodwill on Sunday. By raising Jesus from the dead, God assures us that we can trust Him completely.
On that darkest of days, just three days before the victory of the resurrection, the enemies of Jesus were delighted. His friends were filled with utter despair. It seemed that Jesus had been defeated. The truth was that He had given Himself completely by faith to the purpose and will of God. The triumphant resurrection speaks to each of us and encourages us to believe that God never disappoints those who give themselves completely to Him.
The Christ who conquered death and who is alive forevermore is present with us today. He is here in this place in a very real way, and His greatest desire for us is to replace the spiritual death in our hearts with spiritual life. He replaces fear with faith. He replaces grief with joy when we respond to Him in faith. He loved you so much that He died for you. And His love conquered death itself. He died to give you life, and life eternal.
B B McKinney was a gospel singer and songwriter who died in the fifties. His best-known song says, “Have you failed in your plan of your storm-tossed life? Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. Are you weary and worn from its toil and strife? Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand. Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand; He will keep to the end; He’s your dearest friend. Place your hand in the nail-scarred hand.”